Believing God

Bible Book: Mark  11 : 24
Subject: Faith; Believing God; Faith, True

Dr. Vance Havner (1901-1986) reportedly stated, “This whole matter of Christian living is simply one issue: believing God.” Mark 11:12-14, 20-24 reads, “Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry. And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. In response Jesus said to it, ‘Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.’ And His disciples heard it. . . . Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter, remembering, said to Him, ‘Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away.’ So Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.”

Dr. R. Kent Hughes sounds a warning as he cites the following unpublished parody titled, “The Gospel Story,” by John G. Stackhouse:

“Name it and claim it,” that’s what faith’s about!

You can have what you want if you just have no doubt.

So make out your “wish-list” and keep on believin’

and you’ll find yourself perpetually receivin’ .

Now, some Christians say we should live like our Lord

Who didn’t much worry ‘bout his room or his board.

But we know our Bibles say he became poor

So he could enrich us and give us some more, and more, and more![1]

Rev. James Harington Evans (1785-1849) author of Five Sermons on Faith, writes, “Faith is not a sense, nor sight, nor reason, but a taking God at His Word.”[2] “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them’” (Mark 11:24). Dr. Robert J. Morgan writes in The Red Sea Rules, “Faith is quantifiable. One person’s faith is turbocharged while another’s sputters on one cylinder. As Jesus wandered through Palestine, He had a sort of X-ray vision that penetrated hearts and measured faith. He seemed intensely interested in the quantity of faith being exercised by those who crossed his path. . . . There are degrees to faith, and Jesus richly rewards those who fully trust Him. . . .”[3]

Let’s explore three degrees of faith.


I. Believing God with the assistance of feeling is the first degree of faith.

Judges 6:36-40 reads, “So Gideon said to God, ‘If You will save Israel by my hand as You have said— look, I shall put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor; if there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that You will save Israel by my hand, as You have said.’ And it was so. When he rose early the next morning and squeezed the fleece together, he wrung the dew out of the fleece, a bowlful of water. Then Gideon said to God, ‘Do not be angry with me, but let me speak just once more: Let me test, I pray, just once more with the fleece; let it now be dry only on the fleece, but on all the ground let there be dew.’ And God did so that night. It was dry on the fleece only, but there was dew on all the ground.”

Someone known only by the initials C. H. P. explains, “It marks quite an advance in faith when we trust God without feelings. It is blessed to believe without having any emotion. . . . At one stage of Christian experience we cannot believe unless we have some sign or some great manifestation of feeling. We feel our fleece, like Gideon, and if it is wet we are willing to trust God. This may be true faith, but it is imperfect. It always looks for feeling or some token besides the Word of God.”[4]

Matthew 8:23-27 reads, “Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him. And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep. Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We are perishing!’ But He said to them, ‘Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?’ Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. So the men marveled, saying, ‘Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?’”

II. Believing God in the absence of feeling is the second degree of faith.

Rev. John Thomas Nottidge (1776-1847) writes, “Whether sensible comfort or relish is vouchsafed in religious exercise, or not, let our faith be fixed nakedly, or irrelatively to anything else but the Word of the Living God, and, as far as practicable, in the way that we believe a philosophical or mathematical truth, that is, independently of our feelings.”[5]

Matthew 15:21-28 reads, “Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.’ But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she cries out after us.’ But He answered and said, ‘I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, ‘Lord, help me!’ But He answered and said, ‘It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.’ And she said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.’ Then Jesus answered and said to her, ‘O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.’ And her daughter was healed from that very hour.”

Mark 9:14-29 reads, “And when He came to the disciples, He saw a great multitude around them, and scribes disputing with them. Immediately, when they saw Him, all the people were greatly amazed, and running to Him, greeted Him. And He asked the scribes, ‘What are you discussing with them?’ Then one of the crowd answered and said, ‘Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit. And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not.’ He answered him and said, ‘O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me.’ Then they brought him to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth. So He asked his father, ‘How long has this been happening to him?’ And he said, ‘From childhood. And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’ When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it: ‘Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!’ Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, ‘He is dead.’ But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ So He said to them, ‘This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.’” Luke 7:1-10 reads, “Now when He concluded all His sayings in the hearing of the people, He entered Capernaum. And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear to him, was sick and ready to die. So when he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to Him, pleading with Him to come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they begged Him earnestly, saying that the one for whom He should do this was deserving, ‘for he loves our nation, and has built us a synagogue.’ Then Jesus went with them. And when He was already not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to Him, saying to Him, ‘Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.’ When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him, and turned around and said to the crowd that followed Him, ‘I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!’ And those who were sent, returning to the house, found the servant well who had been sick.”

John 4:46-54 reads, “So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Then Jesus said to him, ‘Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.’ The nobleman said to Him, ‘Sir, come down before my child dies!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go your way; your son lives.’ So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way. And as he was now going down, his servants met him and told him, saying, ‘Your son lives!’ Then he inquired of them the hour when he got better. And they said to him, ‘Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.’ So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, ‘Your son lives.’ And he himself believed, and his whole household. This again is the second sign Jesus did when He had come out of Judea into Galilee. ”

Rev. George B. Duncan (1912-1997) shares, “To me, at one time, this kind of language proved only irritating and tantalizing—sanctification by faith in Jesus, trusting Him for victory. It all seemed so unreal, so unattainable, so elusive, so impractical. Until one day I stumbled across the story which will be found in the 4th chapter of St. John’s gospel and verses 46 to 54, and then I began to realize faith has its component parts. It has progressive steps. Once that key was in my hands, I found the answer to my problems beginning to emerge. . . . There are four words in this passage that I would note with you; each represents a distinct step in the progressiveness of the faith of the nobleman. In verse 47 we read, “He heard. . . he went . . . he besought’, and in verse 50 we read, ‘he believed’[from the Authorized Version].”[6]

Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe shares the following in a message titled, “The Man Who Kept On Running” based on Hebrews 12:1, “Let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us” which I think is the sin of unbelief.”[7] Jamieson, Faussett and Brown comment, “the besetting sin of the Hebrews, UNBELIEF.”[8]


III. Believing God over the ambivalence of feeling is the third degree of faith.

The term “ambivalence” means, “A continual fluctuation as between one thing and its opposite”, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. According to the Random House Dictionary, “ambivalence” is “uncertainty or fluctuation, especially when caused by inability to make a choice or by simultaneous desire to say or do two opposite or conflicting things.”

On the subject of prayer James 1:6-8 explains, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

From Streams in the Desert we read, “There is a third stage of faith which even transcends that of Gideon and his fleece. The first phase of faith believes when there are favorable emotions, the second believes when there is the absence of feeling, but this third form of faith believes God and His Word when circumstances, emotions, appearances, people, and human reason all urge to the contrary. Paul exercised this faith in Acts 27:20, 25, ‘And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away.’ Notwithstanding all this Paul said, ‘Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer; for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.’

May God give us faith to fully trust His Word though everything else witness the other way. . . .

You will never learn faith in comfortable surroundings. God gives us the promises in a quiet hour; God seals our covenants with great and gracious words, then He steps back and waits to see how much we believe; then He lets the tempter come, and the test seems to contradict all that He has spoken. It is then that faith wins its crown. That is the time to look up through the storm, and among the trembling, frightened seamen cry, ‘I believe God that it shall be even as it was told me.’”[9]

Luke 1:26-38 reads, “ Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, ‘Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!’ But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.’ Then Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I do not know a man?’ And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.’ Then Mary said, ‘Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her.”

Dr. Albert B. Simpson (1843-1919) writes, “We shall never forget a remark that George Mueller [1805-1898] once made to a gentleman who had asked him the best way to have strong faith. ‘The only way,’ replied the patriarch of faith, ‘to learn strong faith is to endure great trials. I have learned my faith by standing firm amid severe testings.’ This is very true. The time to trust is when all else fails.”[10]

Romans 4:20-21 reads, “He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.” Hebrews 11:11 reads, “By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised.”

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther (1483-1546), father of the Reformation, penned these inspiring words:

Feelings come and feelings go,

And feelings are deceiving;

My warrant is the Word of God,

Naught else is worth believing!

Though all my heart should feel condemned

For lack of some sweet token,

There is One greater than my heart

Whose Word cannot be broken!

I’ll trust in God’s unchanging Word

Till soul and body sever;

For, though all things shall pass away,

His Word shall stand forever![11]


Rev. George B. Duncan writes, “The eleventh chapter of Hebrews gives us the record of the men and women of faith. These and scores of other passages of Scripture teach us that faith is essential and fundamental to spiritual progress and achievement, and yet when it comes to the point and we are seeking to exercise faith in Christ, it seems to become elusive, unreal, unworkable, and so we forsake it and get down to working our own way, to tackling our problems almost entirely by our own effort.”[12]

Rev. A. L. Newton writes, “Our union with Christ is the union of the covenant and therefore not dependent upon frames and feelings.”[13]
From Streams in the Desert, January 4th Reading: “When there is a matter that requires definite prayer, pray till you believe God, until with unfeigned lips you can thank Him for the answer. If the answer still tarries outwardly, do not pray for it in such a way that it is evident that you are not definitely believing for it. Such a prayer in place of being a help will be a hindrance; and when you are finished praying, you will find that your faith has weakened or has entirely gone. The urgency that you felt to offer this kind of prayer is clearly from self and Satan. It may not be wrong to mention the matter in question to the Lord again, if He is keeping you waiting, but be sure you do so in such a way that it implies faith. Do not pray yourself out of faith. You may tell Him that you are waiting and that you are still believing Him and therefore praise Him for the answer. There is nothing that so fully clinches faith as to be so sure of the answer that you can thank God for it. Prayers that pray us out of faith deny both God's promise in His Word and also His whisper ‘Yes,’ that He gave us in our hearts. Such prayers are but the expression of the unrest of one's heart, and unrest implies unbelief in reference to the answer to prayer. ‘For we which have believed do enter into rest’ (Heb. 4:3). This prayer that prays ourselves out of faith frequently arises from centering our thoughts on the difficulty rather than on God's promise. Abraham ‘considered not his own body,’ ‘he staggered not at the promise of God’ (Rom. 4:19, 20). May we watch and pray that we enter not into temptation of praying ourselves out of faith. —C. H. P.”[14]
George Mueller explains, “The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.”[15]

Dr. Arthur T. Pierson (1837-1911) warns, “There is a sinful ‘faith in God.’ A Universalist once remarked to me, when we were somewhat sharply conversing over the tendencies of the day to denial of the final punishment of the ungodly—‘Well, I have faith in God; and I believe I am willing to take my chances with Him.’ I promptly replied, ‘You can safely take your chances with God only on God’s own conditions!’”[16] Never forget the importance of rightly believing God.


[1]R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word– Mark, Volume II: Jesus, Servant and Savior, (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1989), 124. 

[2]G. S. Bowes, Illustrative Gatherings for Preachers and Teachers, (Philadelphia, PA: Perkinpine & Higgins, 1863), 125.

[3]Robert J. Morgan, The Red Sea Rules, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001), 99.

[4]Mrs. Charles E. Cowman, Streams in the Desert, July 21 Reading, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1925, 1976), 215.

[5]Bowes, Illustrative, 147.

[6]George B. Duncan, Wanting the Impossible, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1957), 79-80.

[7]Warren W. Wiersbe, “The Man Who Kept On Running”, Sermon Notes, (Hebrews 12:1-3).

[8]Jamieson, Faussett, Brown Commentary, Hebrews 12:1, Accessed: 08/14/14, .

[9]Cowman, Streams, July 21 Reading, and January 4 Reading, 215, 4-5.

[10]Cowman, Streams, June 2 Reading, 165.

[11]Martin Luther, Quotable Quotes, Goodreads, accessed February 16, 2013,

[12]Duncan, Impossible, 79.

[13]Elon Foster, New Cyclopaedia of Prose Illustration: Adapted to Christian Teaching: Embracing Mythology, Analogies, Legends, Parables, Emblems, Metaphors, Similes, Allegories, Proverbs, Classic, Historic, and Religious Anecdotes, Etc., (New York, NY: W. C. Palmer, 1875), 271.

[14]Cowman, Streams, July 21 Reading, 4-5.

[15]Edythe Draper, Draper’s Book of Quotations for the Christian World, 21, Database © 2009 WORDsearch Corp.

[16]Arthur T. Pierson, Seed Thoughts for Public Speakers, (New York, NY: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1900), 20.

By Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort 30775 Jay Drive Spanish Fort, Alabama 36527

Author of Don’t Miss the Revival! Messages for Revival and Spiritual Awakening from Isaiah and

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